If you are involved in shaping your business’s customer interactions, then the world’s largest consumer electronics show might have some unexpected insights for you.
For managers shaping and measuring customer experience, CES means one thing: the all-important indexing of your Customer Effort Score. But there is another CES that customer communication leaders should watch closely—Sin City’s annual Consumer Electronics Show.
This massive display of consumer gadgets isn’t just about the hottest technology and coolest gadgets. It is also a definitive forecast of how customer interactions will change. Observe closely, and it will deliver insights into how people will be able to—and will want to—communicate with your business.
Because CES spotlights technologies most likely to shape your customers’ lives, and interactions. Like in 1970, when Sony’s VCR (Video Cassette Recorder) launch redefined home entertainment. Or in ‘75 when Atari’s launched its home gaming revolution from here. Or in ’77 when Apple introduced its first personal computer here. And it’s iPhone in 2007. Or in 2012, when Ultrabooks, 3d printers and ultra HDTV’s were unveiled here.
2019 too had its share of fancy gadgets too. The Bell Nexus Air Taxi (Yes, it flies). The Fight Camp (a connected home boxing workout system). The Segway Ninebot Lumo (a delivery bot), and even the fake Impossible Burger that’s deliciously authentic in every way.
But underlying the vast number of gadgets, what were the themes and trends? And what can they predict about your customer interactions in the near and distant future? Let’s investigate.
Voice is everywhere
CES 2019 was abuzz with the popularity of voice interfaces. These interfaces have climbed out of the digital assistants and climbed into every home product you own. Think TV, toys, smartphones and even toilets!
- TV manufacturing giants LG and Samsung integrated Alexa and Google Home in their new roll-able OLED TVs—which incidentally roll into or out of a box when asked to!
- You can tell your Moen showers—via Alexa or Google—exactly what temperature and water pressure you prefer to shower in.
- Your Hi-mirror will analyze your skin, track your beauty regime and give you product recommendations.
- And, voice-activated companions like Cody will tell your kids stories, sing songs, relay your messages and answer their questions in a kid-friendly voice.
As Fred Jacobs pointed out in his blog,*voice was everywhere.
|“(it) has moved well beyond smart speakers sitting on kitchen islands and nightstands. Everywhere you journeyed at CES, you saw “Alexa” and “Hey, Google” voice technology baked into thousands of devices, gadgets, and appliances.” Fred Jacobs, Founder, Jacob Media Strategies|
What can this mean for customer communications? Voice will grow as a medium of communication. Digital assistants will be the new communication channel between your business and your customer. And devices may be next.
People will expect to do less with their heads stuck in screens. With the growing number of voice-enabled products, phones may finally be put down in homes, cars, and offices.
Also Read: Features your contact center Voice Bot needs
Touchscreen won’t disappear either
Voice isn’t replacing screens. They often work together to create multi-dimensional interactions. A generation that is used to keeping their heads locked onto screens needs and expects visual feedback. So not surprisingly, a lot of voice-enabled devices sported screens too.
- For instance, while the Mui touch-sensitive display also accepts voice commands to let you receive messages, check the news and weather and control smart devices
- The voice-enabled children companions iPal and Woobo also sport screens for their visually inclined users.
- The Hi-mirror we mentioned before, as well as their Capstone competitor, both act as touchscreen tablets.
- The Samsung Smart refrigerator added better voice capabilities this year but did not remove the touchscreen from the fridge door.
|“Screens aren’t there to showcase screens, they are a conduit to your connected life. It is a conduit to making a hardware-based platform into a software-based one” Dr. Yeon C. Lee, SVP, Samsung Electronics.*|
What can this mean for customer communications? Voice will reduce typing. But will integrate with screens to deliver a better experience. Your customer will get comfortable with this dual-communication medium, that is, simultaneously accessing voice and visual interfaces. They will soon expect it to be available in all their interactions, even those they conduct with you.
Products will speak to each other
While Netgear displayed their new Netgear Nighthawk —5G modem, other CES displays revealed how connected homes would soon start using this ultra-fast internet connection. Products will coordinate with each other to create a digital ecosystem within homes.
- For example, Your Moen shower will group together with other smart products in your bathroom. So, with a single instruction, you will turn on your shower, turn off your blinds and switch on your preferred lighting.
- Aiding this IOT ecosystem, Google assistant revealed the Google Assistant Connect, that makes it easier to set up your smart home devices—without downloading separate apps for each.
What can this mean for customer communications? Products will emerge as intelligent, connected, customer touchpoints. Samsung predicts that by 2020, all their products will be connected. With this, you can expect your omnichannel experience to move to an omni-product experience.
Also Read: Contact Center Trends 2019
They will sense more, and protect more.
Nuance automotive’s virtual assistants can recognize emotion through facial expression and voice. Their assistants speak in a chatty, friendly voice when they see a person smiling. But revert to a factual mode when the user seems serious.
- Sensory Inc’s technology can listen and identify sounds like glass breaking or a baby crying— and use it to alert you if needed.
- Smart water systems by Flo will detect drips and leaks in your home and let you know how your water consumption in a day, week or month.
- Abilisense, is a smart listening technology that transforms sounds into intelligence. In a smart speaker for the elderly could recognize human distress noises and can alert people or activate other devices.
|“As machines become more part of our lives, we are going to expect them to communicate with us more the way we communicate with each other as human beings. Emotion is going to change the way people speak to voice assistants.” Robert Policano, Nuance Automotive*|
What can this mean for customer communications? Voice assistants will be able to pick up on both customer intent and customer mood as they speak. Expect these voice assistants to aid you with customer support or sales.
With sensor reporting, devices will monitor, and report issues themselves. Automation will keep increasing and people will expect to solve issues, without logging complaints.
Also Read: Sentiment Analysis in the Contact Center.
Privacy issues will be addressed
And while devices will be speaking and listening to each other and to you, they may not always be speaking to the cloud. Many companies are working to develop IOT devices with high fidelity voice recognition minus cloud computing. Privacy seems to be an issue that many tech leaders are interested in addressing.
- For instance, Mycroft released the Mark II, a privacy-centric smart speaker that does not store user recordings.
- Snips was another voice interface that lets you connect devices but runs offline. It can be used across devices that have a limited number of commands, for example, your washing machine, your thermostat or coffee machine.
- Sensory Inc.’s voice control lets digital assistants control household devices without going to the cloud for simple functions like pairing with your phone, setting timers, telling time or controlling volume and pausing your music.
- Pindrop uses voice biometrics as part of a dual-factor authentication that can be used to secure locks or even transactions.
|“The best-architected system is going to be Hybrid—that combines both types of architecture: embedded and cloud. There are certain functions you don’t need to go the cloud to do. “ Robert Pollicano, Nuance automotive*|
What can this mean for customer communications? Your contact center will have access to voice in completely secure as well as cloud environments.
“Hearables” will be a cool new channel
With consumers being on the go and multitasking, these “smart headphones” are becoming a must-have. They are a nifty conduit to accessing content, in connecting with voice assistants, for example. If this wasn’t enough, did you know EarBoost’s, adaptive audio enhancement earbuds have the ability to EQ the music on your smartphone? Not that we previously missed this cool capability, but now that it is a reality, I want it!
What can this mean for customer communications? Digital assistants for your agents could very well be embedded in their “hearables” in the future.
Voice assistants will help overcome language barriers.
Enabling people to converse without having to speak the same language. Isn’t it a nice must-have for global businesses?
- The WT2 Plus wearable AI translator that comes with 20 embedded languages
- Alibaba will have real-time translation letting trader from across the globe speak for example to their Chinese suppliers they might find via Alibaba.
- iFlytek, China’s most popular translator, had iFlytek translator2.0 on display. It can translate between Chinese and 51 other languages.
What can this mean for customer communications? Thinking of expanding operations to another region, another country? Language may not be a barrier anymore.
The road is the new location for customer transactions.
Digital assistants in the car are allowing users to keep their eyes on the road, and their hands upon the wheel. Today consumers can order groceries, book show tickets, speak to your customer care, or turn on your home’s air conditioning—all while driving.
- Amazon’s Echo Auto appears to be a game changer for the auto industry. At $50 it is slated to make voice a reality in almost any car. Its cool features let you tell your car to tune into your favorite radio channel, rather than fumble with buttons and pre-settings.
- Alibaba’s Tmall Genie assistant will be available in-car to BMW customers in China by the end of 2019, bringing the IOT connected experience to the car.
- Nuance Automotive’s just talk won’t just respond to sound. It will also be able to track eye and head movements to understand the user better. Their touchscreens will project onto the windscreen, and users just need to glance at it and speak a command to let the voice assistant understand and respond to commands.
Also Read: Experiencing contact centers in 2019.
What can this mean for customer communications? Expect more calls from your customer’s cars, and design your user experience with this in mind.
CES is the worlds largest show-and-tell for gadget geeks. It opens our minds to previously unfathomable possibilities. We see how technology can make our day-to-day tasks at a personal and business level more convenient, streamlined, and efficient. As you go back to the humdrum of managing your contact centers in the present day, it helps you prepare for an unforeseeable future. Who knows when the next call your contact center receives is from a bathroom mirror or a car windshield? Stay prepared.
*Extracted for the Voicebot podcast with Brett Kinsella.
** By Jacob in his Blog, on Jacobs Media.